5 Must Have Shrubs for Your Garden

As a child I first dabbled in houseplants. As a young adult I began experimenting by combining pretty annuals in pots. When I purchased my first home, I was a big fan of perennials. I still love them and grow quite a few however, after a while I realized that my garden design was somewhat lacking. Although each of the properties I have lived in came with it’s share of standard foundation plants and a smattering of trees, the garden beds that I began to plant needed some structure to create the right look.

Learn about 5 must have shrubs that are easy to grow and have multiple seasonal interest.

This is where shrubs come in. They add height and texture to the garden and once established, they require very little to no maintenance. Below are my five must have shrubs that I have growing in my landscape. They are easy to grow and provide great structure and balance to the garden.

 1. Fothergilla major

The first one was recommended to me by my friend Arlene, who has been a gardener for as long as I’ve known her during the past 25 years.

Fothergilla major ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

F. major – Spring


Fothergilla major summer ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

F. major – Summer

Beautiful fall color on fothergilla.

Beautiful fall color on fothergilla.


  • Deciduous – loses it’s leaves in the winter
  • Hardy to zone 4
  • Requires full Sun to part Shade
  • Get’s pretty big – mine is about six ft tall and around five ft wide

Why I love it

  • No maintenance at all.
  • Blooms have a nice honey fragrance.
  • Unusual bottle brush spring flowers, good for arrangements before the perennials are up and blooming
  • Great fall color

 2. Weigela florida

This beautiful shrub was part of the landscape when we moved into this property 10 years ago. If it was planted when the house was built, it would be close to 30 years old.

Wegelia in bloom ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com


wegelia wine and roses ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

Wegelia ‘Wine and Roses’ variety


  • Deciduous – loses it’s leaves in the winter
  • Hardy to zone 4
  • Requires full sun
  • Can get large (10 feet x 10 feet) but there are many dwarf varieties

Why I love it

  • Very little maintenance–we prune it in the late summer to keep it in control
  • Beautiful fuchsia colored flowers all over that last a long time in arrangement
  • Hummingbirds and bees love it

3. Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

I purchased this with a birthday gift card from White Flower Farm several years ago and have been delighted at how well it turned out.

Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

S. nigra ‘Black Lace’

Sambucus nigra Black Lace bloom ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

Black Lace in bloom


  • Deciduous – loses it’s leaves in the winter
  • Hardy to zone 4
  • Requires full sun to part shade
  • Reaches around six to eight feet tall and wide at maturity

Why I love it

  • Beautiful unique dark foliage that lasts all season
  • Adds a nice airy feeling to the landscape
  • Produces pretty showy flowers in the spring


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4. Spiraea japonica

This one was also here when we bought the house. It’s fairly common however I have come to love it’s delicate leaves, flowers and compact shape.

Spirea japonica in bloom ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

S. japonica

Spiraea x bumalda 'Goldflame' ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

Spiraea x bumalda ‘Goldflame’


  • Deciduous – loses it’s leaves in the winter
  • Hardy to zone 4
  • Requires full sun to part shade
  • Medium size -three feet tall by 4 feet wide

Why I love it

  • Full flush of lovely pink flowers from May through July makes it one of the best fillers for flower arrangements
  • Requires no maintenance, unless you have some winter damage or want to shape the plant
  • You can easily dig up a piece and plant it somewhere else in the garden

5. Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’

I also purchased this one out of a catalog and have loved it from the start. It produces the most beautiful bright berries in my garden when everything else is dying back.

Beautyberry Bush - flowers ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com

Beautyberry Bush - full size ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com
Beautyberry Bush in fall ~ 5 Must Have Shrubs ~ gardenmatter.com


  • Deciduous – loses it’s leaves in the winter
  • Hardy to zone 5
  • Requires full sun to part shade
  • Medium size – four feet tall by five feet wide

Why I love it

  • I prune this one in the spring down to six inches and by July, it has already grown to four feet tall
  • Has the most beautiful purple berries in the fall–no wonder the common name is ‘Beauty Berry’
  • Occasionally self-seeds, so I can share with friends and family

There you have it. Looking for more? Check out 5 More Must Have Shrubs for additional ideas or some of the perennial articles below. Happy Gardening.


About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Hearth and Vine, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. Well I have 2 of the black lace and one quite large weigela but I don’t have room for the rest! Nice collection.

  2. I love your list of shrubs. I have the spirea and the beauty berry. I am so anxious to see how it turns out this fall. It is my first year for it. But I have a nice sized bush now in July, so I am hopeful. Thanks. Beautiful inspiring photos.

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for the kudos. You will love your beauty berry. Last winter when it was freezing here and everything was dead I saw a couple of blue birds through the window on it. We never get bluebirds so that was exciting. I learned at a garden symposium once that you should cut it back hard every spring so I do and it still gets pretty large by July. I think the reasoning is so it will produce more flowers which will eventually produce the beautiful berries in fall. Thanks for stopping!

  3. Looks like you’ve got some beautiful shrubs there. We’re on our second year of our weigela and it ‘s huge. The beauty berry looks like a gorgeous Fall plant. Thanks for the tips!

    • Thanks Leslie,

      You may already know this but the wegelia makes a great cut flower for arrangements.
      Have a great weekend!


  4. Liz Thomas says:

    I had all of these when I lived in the PNW and they did beautifully. I’m wondering if the summer heat would be too much for them in Williamsburg, VA

    • I’m not 100% sure but I think they would all do well in VA. It’s a little warmer then here but they are all pretty tough shrubs. You could check to see what their heat index is. I did a quick search and it looks like Williamsburg in between Heat zone 6 and 7. I think you will do okay with any of them in VA. Have fun in your new place!

  5. One of my favorite shrubs are Weigelas. I have 3 variegated because I gave a couple away. The hummingbirds love them and that is why I plant them.

    • Hi Renee,

      Yeah, they have that tubular kind of flower that hummingbirds love. I bet your variegated shrubs are beautiful. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Thank you for the tips. I need to add shrubs to my landscape. Looks like a trip to the nursery is needed.

    • Hi Karen,

      I hope you find something that works for you. You can always ask someone at the nursery their favorites, maybe something with more than one season of interest.
      Thanks for stopping by,

  7. Woody flowering shrubs are my favorite garden inhabitant! I had the gold flame, waterman and little princess spirea and the wigelia in my NJ garden. They do not do well in SC, where I now live; however, the beauty berry is very abundant. I have learned to enjoy tea olive, lorapetulum, camellia and anise or their fragrance and showy flowers. Sandra

    • Hi Sandra,
      Thanks for you kind words. South Carolina is a lot warmer than NJ. I lived in Nashville for a couple of years and the own thing I loved about it was the longer growing season. I have a friend who is trying to grow Camelias here in PA but I’m sure it will be a struggle. Lucky you!
      Have a great week and thanks for stopping by,

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